The Basics of Multi-Location and Franchise Marketing
Owning a business that is part of a franchise or that has multiple locations can be a positive business venture when done correctly. That said, there are a lot of things to consider before purchasing a business that is part of a larger corporation. The last thing you want to do is invest in a company where the marketing has been handled irresponsibly. If you’re in charge of your own marketing, don't go in blind not knowing how to advertise. This will cause your investment to tank, and all your hard work and money will go down the drain.
In other words, it’s important to make sure you do your homework and understand all that goes into owning a franchise or a multi-location business before making a purchase. And if you decide to invest, take the time to learn how to market correctly. This article will explain the basics of what you need to know in order to protect your investment.
In a recent study, The 2016 Franchise Marketing Survey found that franchise marketing can be a tricky venture. Any time a large group of people get together and have to agree on how to handle money, there are risks. There will be different opinions about how the money should be spent, with each person thinking about the best interests of their own business, and not necessarily the corporation as a whole. On the flip side, franchise marketing can also be a huge bonus for businesses because it gives access to a large pool of money that can potentially be used to improve marketing for everyone involved. Here are some things to consider before purchasing a franchise.
You need to understand what franchising is.
This may sound obvious, but it’s important to understand exactly what franchising is before getting into it. Many people think franchising is it’s own industry. It's not. It’s more of a way of doing business. It’s a hybrid business plan that combines working for yourself and working for somebody else. This is why it’s a good fit for many people, but not for everybody. You won't have complete autonomy over your business, but there will also not be someone higher up telling you what to do every minute. It's a team effort.
You must be willing to be part of the team.
According to Franchising.com, "Franchising means working for yourself, but not by yourself." This means that everyone involved has the responsibility to operate their own successful businesses long term, and that the success of the brand as a whole depends on each team member’s individual successes. You have to be willing to operate as a whole group with the brand’s needs at the forefront. If everyone is only thinking of their individual businesses, the brand as a whole will suffer, and everyone will lose. This may mean coming together to create and decide on a shared marketing plan that will positively affect all the businesses involved.
In order to make money, you will have to put out money.
This is a concept that is hard for some people to swallow. According to Franchising.com, franchise fees range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. Royalities range from five to eight percent, with the marketing and advertising cost running you an additional one to three percent. Despite the steep fees, many people still choose to invest because they realize the potential to make more money in the long run as part of a franchise than they would just working on their own.
Again, this goes back to being willing to work as part of a team even though you are still responsible for your own business. A company-wide marketing fund means you won’t have complete autonomy over how your businesses is advertised and what exactly happens to that large fund to which you have to contribute. You will be able to voice your opinion, so it’s important to understand the basics of franchise and multi-location marketing.
If, after you’ve done all the necessary research, you still want to buy into a franchise or expand your business into multiple locations, your work isn’t done. In fact, it’s just started because now you need to understand the intricacies of marketing for more than one location and how to optimize your results so that your investment continues to be a positive one. Here's some marketing tips.
Keep customers at the forefront.
In the end, customers are what will keep your business thriving, and so it only makes sense that they should be considered at the top of your marketing plan. Don’t be afraid to try something new -- just make sure to evaluate whether or not your strategy is bringing more customers through the door. If the answer is no, move on and think of something else.
Be prepared to debate strategies with the other members of the team. It’s ok to argue, as long as everyone is keeping the customer’s wants and needs in mind. Ultimately, this is the only thing that’s going to make everyone’s businesses successful.
Consider customer reviews.
This is something that is often forgotten at the corporation level -- make sure you don't forget! The unfortunate truth is that most reviews are left by unhappy customers who feel the need to voice their opinions. Happy customers tend to stay quiet. This paints an unfavorable -- and often unfair -- picture of the business online. Don’t be afraid to get out there and ask your loyal customers to leave reviews. It’s the only way that your business has a chance to accurately portray their reputation.
In addition, encourage these customers to utilize your Google my Business page. And don’t forget about citations that allow reviews, like Yelp. Citations often show up first in search results listings that target your keywords, so it’s important that those reviews are favorable as well.
Create a quality website.
Your business website should be at the center of your marketing campaign. It’s where your customers go to find out information about your product, as well as where, when and how to reach you. It’s ultimately what will bring customers through your front door. Make sure each store has an individual locations page that is optimized and can be indexed by Google. These locations pages should be up-to-date with accurate information about your business -- address, operating hours, contact information, etc.
Finally, make sure the site is well-run overall. It should be optimized, run quickly, be clear and uncluttered, have a quality mobile version and provide well-written content that customers are looking for.
Make sure the franchisor elicits input from the franchisees.
Although the franchisor ultimately has the last say in how marketing money is spent, you should be part of a corporation that asks for the opinions of the franchisees. Some businesses have an elected board of franchisees that meet with the franchisor regularly to discuss the wants and needs of the whole group. Regardless of how this is done, the individual franchisees should have the opportunity to contribute their opinions into the overall marketing plan. After all, they’re the ones who deal with the customers directly. A good franchisor will recognize this and seek out opinions from franchisees.
Marketing money should be allocated appropriately.
Typically, a large company marketing fund gets distributed into three different areas -- the costs of administering the marketing effort, the cost of the advertising materials themselves and the media purchases to place the advertisements. A good multi-location/ franchise marketing plan will dispense funds equally into these three areas. Be wary of any plans that seem to tip the scale in favor of one area over another. All three of these departments directly impact each other, so they should be treated with equal importance.
Two common types of advertisements are brand building versus customer attraction. Both are good for business and should be used when creating a marketing plan. One should not be deemed better than the other.
Don’t forget about SEO, especially local.
While local searches tend to benefit local, single location businesses tremendously, they don’t always have the same effect on multi-location or franchise businesses. Because of the nature of local searches, it’s difficult for the latter to rank as well as single location companies, but it’s not impossible as long as you pay attention to the rules of SEO. Don’t ignore local SEO principles. As I said before, each location should have an individual local landing page. You should also take time to make sure you have clear, positive citations.
Evaluate whether or not the marketing plan is working.
Last but not least, remember that any marketing plan can look good on paper. That doesn’t mean it will be successful when put into practice. It’s important to analyze your results and determine if your efforts are, in fact, increasing brand awareness and bringing more customers through your doors. Consult your team for their opinions and to find out how the plan is working for them. Remember, two heads are better than one, and ultimately it needs to have positive results for everyone, or the brand as a whole will suffer. In the end, it’s your livelihood that will suffer if the marketing plan doesn’t work, so put in the necessary effort and due diligence to evaluate it’s effectiveness and make changes when necessary.
Scott Langdon is an entrepreneur with over 13 years of internet marketing experience, and currently serves as a managing partner of the nationally-recognized SEO firm HigherVisibility. Langdon and the HigherVisibility team work with clients of all sizes from across the country to offer a full range of interactive marketing services. He resides in Memphis, Tennessee.